Blog reader survey results & winner of the stem cell swag

It’s fun and useful for me to learn about the readers of this blog in terms of who they are and what their interests are in terms of the types of posts that I do.

Below are the results of two recent reader surveys that I did to get this kind of information. The two polls got 162 and 192 responses, respectively.

Before I get to discussing the results, I also included a prize/raffle element to this survey whereby I would choose one winner out of the participants who would receive a stem cell t-shirt, and signed copies of my two books, Stem Cells: An Insiders Guide and GMO Sapiens.

And the winner of the random drawing is Josephine “Jo” Bowles, Senior Lecturer at the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland, Australia.

Congratulations, Jo!

Okay, now to the results.

readership survey

Who are you?

The first survey asked you all about your backgrounds. Exactly half of you turn out to be scientists with more academic researchers, but also quite a few industry researchers. Many of you are also patients or patient advocates, with your numbers being about the same as industry scientists. I tried really hard to think of as many types of backgrounds as I could for this poll, but even so in fourth place was “other” in this survey.

One category that in hindsight I should have included was “teacher”, but if you answered “other” in this survey please let me know in the comments what kinds of backgrounds I missed. The fifth most common selection was “Physician”, which doesn’t surprise. I hear from doctors regularly that they are readers. I was surprised not to see more journalists showing up in this survey since they also regularly get in touch about specific posts that they read. Of course this survey is not scientific and may not be very precise.

What kind of content do you like?

The second survey asked you all about what kinds of blog posts here on the Niche that you like the most. Here again came the challenge for me of what categories to include. The types of posts that are the most work and frankly pose the greatest risk to me are the ones that turned out to be the most popular: investigations. People want to know facts and new insights about difficult, messy situations. I get it and I try to regularly do those kinds of pieces despite the fact that I’m so busy, these take more time, and like I said I always am concerned about risks of being sued or threatened.

Other popular types of posts included Newsy items, journal-club like paper reviews, opinion pieces and interviews. I was surprised that CRISPR pieces weren’t more popular because when I do them I can see in the metrics that they are heavily read, but then again this is mostly a stem cell blog.

Thanks for doing the survey and please as you read consider adding in your voice in the comments.

Find $250 Easter egg in GMO Sapiens #CRISPR book: here’s a hint

egg crackingWant $250 as well as at least a sliver of science-related glory?

Within my book GMO Sapiens on CRISPR and human genetic modification, I’ve hidden a scientific Easter egg.

There’s more Easter egg info over here including the rules.

If you are the first one to find and properly explain this egg to me after buying the book, you win $250. I had originally limited it to the print edition, but e-version purchase is fine too.

So far no one has gotten the hidden egg right.

To give people a better chance, I’m giving a hint. The clue is: crack the Easter egg code.

Good luck.

This is largely a repost of last year’s Easter piece.

Korean edition of my GMO book on human CRISPR is out

I got a package from my publisher and upon opening it I saw the Korean edition of my book GMO Sapiens on the potential use of CRISPR in humans. The English language edition can be purchased here at the publisher where you can get 35% using the discount code WS16XMAS35 until January 15th or here on Amazon.gmo-sapiens-korean

This is really exciting.

I don’t speak Korean, but it was interesting to see the cover and how the book turned out in Korean. The cover art on the Korean edition is quite striking with the silver and red, and the different icons coming together.

It is also a great feeling to know that many people in Korea or for whom Korean is a first language will be reading my work and thinking about the important issues involved.

Where are all the new CRISPR human embryo papers?

Last year I heard from several sources that there somewhere between 3-5 unpublished manuscripts reporting the use of CRISPR gene targeting in human embryos being shopped around at various journals in addition to the one that had been published. Since that time we’ve seen a grand total of one additional paper reporting on CRISPR of human embryos.

So what gives?

Were the sources wrong?

I don’t think so and I believe there are additional labs pursuing research on the use of CRISPR in human embryos.

Depending on the context, the oversight, and the training of those involved, there may be nothing wrong with these studies at all. In fact, they could be positive and teach us a lot if the teams are careful. However, CRISPR’ing human embryos without a good rationale and appropriate oversight is unwise. I also cannot imagine supporting use of CRISPR with the intent to make a modified new human being for many years to come if ever. You can learn more about the history of genetic modification and my views as well as those of CRISPR leaders in my new book, GMO Sapiens.

So where are all the CRISPR human embryo papers? I can think of a few main reasons why we haven’t seen more so far.

embryo human

Wikimedia Photo

Editors as gatekeepers? One possible reason we haven’t seen more CRISPR’d human embryo papers is that journal editors are reluctant to publish them and are acting as essentially gatekeepers for this kind of work. If true, what are the potential risks or benefits of such a de facto filtering system and what is the basis by which the editors are making such decisions?

Outcomes of first 2 pubs discouraged more? Another possibility is that other research teams have been discouraged by the first two papers reporting CRISPR use in human embryos. I can see at least two levels at which those considering working and publishing in this area might be reluctant to proceed because of the first two papers. On the one hand, both papers reported technical challenges with this research, which was discouraging. On the other hand, both papers were heavily criticized by some.

Continue reading

Hint for $250 Easter egg in GMO Sapiens #CRISPR book

egg crackingWant $250 as well as at least a sliver of science-related glory?

Within my new book GMO Sapiens on CRISPR and human genetic modification, I’ve hidden a scientific Easter egg.

There’s more Easter egg info over here including the rules.

If you are the first one to find and properly explain this egg to me after buying the book, you win $250. I had originally limited it to the print edition, but e-version purchase is fine too.

So far no one has gotten the hidden egg right.

To give people a better chance, today in this post I’m giving a hint.

The clue is: crack the Easter egg code.

Good luck.